MARUGAME, Japan, Feb 4- Kenya’s Edward Waweru and Betsy Saina took top honours at the Kagawa Marugame Half Marathon, winning the IAAF Silver Label road race in Personal Best times of 1:00:31 and 1:09:17 respectively on Sunday.
Waweru, who lives in Japan and runs for NTN Track and Field Club, took 97 seconds off his previous best; the former track specialist had contested just one half marathon before today, clocking 1:02:08 at the 2014 Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon.
Kenta Murayama, who was second at the 2014 edition with 1:00:50, covered the opening kilometre in a swift 2:40 and had built up a 12-second lead after two kilometres. He passed five kilometres in 14:00 with the chase pack 10 seconds behind.
The chase pack continued to cut down Murayama’s lead and by seven kilometres his lead was down to seven seconds.
Waweru and Japanese half-marathon record-holder Yuta Shitara caught Murayama before eight kilometres, forming a three-man lead pack, and the trio passed 10 kilometres in 28:01.
After turning around at the half-way point, the runners had to run into the wind. Of the three, Murayama was the first to fall behind and he started to lose contact with Waweru and Shitara at about 11 kilometres.
Two kilometres later, Shitara also started to drift back, leaving Waweru alone in front.
The 27-year-old passed 15 kilometres in 42:28 with Shitara 11 seconds behind.
Waweru continued to pull ahead of his competitors, and by 20 kilometres he was 38 second ahead of Shitara in second. Waweru won in 1:00:31, while Shitara was second in 1:01:13, falling nearly one minute short of his national record.
“I am happy to be the first Japanese finisher, but I really wanted to win the race,” said Shitara, who will be targeting the Japanese record at the Tokyo Marathon in three weeks.
Murayama was third in 1:01:42 with world record-holder Zersenay Tadese in fourth, one second behind. Daichi Kamino, also running the Tokyo Marathon in three weeks, was 17th in 1:02:35.
-Saina wins with ease
Japanese record-holder Kayoko Fukushi led during the early stages of the women’s race, reaching five kilometres in 16:15 with four other runners close behind.
Saina then covered the next five-kilometre segment in 15:59 and only Ftaw Zeray was able to stay with her as Fukushi, Australia’s Jessica Trengove and USA’s Sara Hall were left behind.
Slowed by the wind after the turn-around point, Saina still managed to pull away from Zeray by covering the third five-kilometre section in 16:36, reaching 15 kilometres with a 22-second lead.
Meanwhile, the slow-starting Kaori Morita had moved up to second place with just five kilometres to go.
Saina, who finished fifth in the 10,000m at the 2016 Olympics, eventually won in 1:09:17, taking 10 seconds off the PB she set in Boston in 2014. She had triumphed at the 2016 Great Scottish Run in 1:07:22, but the course was found to be about 150 metres short.
Morita finished second in 1:10:10 while Zeray was third in 1:10:31, followed by Trengove in 1:10:59. Fukushi was seventh with 1:13:17, while two-time world marathon champion Edna Kiplagat was a distant 12th in 1:13:56.
1 Edward Waweru (KEN) 1:00:31
2 Yuta Shitara (JPN) 1:01:13
3 Kenta Murayama (JPN) 1:01:42
4 Zersenay Tadese (ERI) 1:01:43
5 Bayelign Teshager (ETH) 1:01:43
6 Dominic Nyairo (KEN) 1:01:46
7 Joel Mwaura (KEN) 1:01:50
1 Betsy Saina (KEN) 1:09:17
2 Kaori Morita (JPN) 1:10:10
3 Ftaw Zeray (ETH) 1:10:31
4 Jessica Trengove (AUS) 1:10:59